Student Legal Services and the College Student
Let’s face it: there may come a time while you are enrolled in college that you run into some sort of legal trouble. Your parents may not be in a position to help you out and hiring an attorney on your own can be prohibitive. Fortunately, many colleges and universities operate a student legal services (SLS) department, places where you can go for legal advice, usually for free. In some cases you must have paid the SLS fee with your other college fees to receive free help or that fee may have been included with your overall fee. Check with your college advisor to learn if this is so.
About Student Legal Services
The information provided here is general. It may be different from what your institution offers so please keep that in mind.
Firstly, your SLS may operate independent of your institution even if their office is located on campus in a college building. The separation is for you own benefit — if you have an issue with your institution or a problem you’re facing that could affect your academic standing, then you should have the confidence that what you say won’t be reported to your school.
Secondly, your SLS should handle a wide variety of legal problems. If you are a tenant at a private apartment, SLS may be able to handle your tenant-landlord dispute. Any traffic offense incurred while you were driving may also be covered. Just the same if you have a legal problem with another student or a faculty member, such as harassment, you can obtain legal counsel.
Thirdly, you may have to schedule an appointment. It is uncommon for an SLS to take drop ins as staff may be busy handling other cases or in court. However, most offices offer notary services and you may be able to drop in for that help. Otherwise expect to make an appointment or to receive a referral depending on your legal matter.
College students should know that the usual attorney-client privilege is practiced at SLS. They should also know that the privilege doesn’t attach (take effect) until having met directly with the attorney. Therefore, you need to stay tight-lipped if questioned by a law enforcer such as a campus security guard or police officer. Ask immediately to speak with your attorney, than contact SLS for assistance.
Your SLS may have more than one intake procedure for handling its cases. Some programs welcome phone calls, others prefer that you fill out a confidential and secure form online including your student number, your first and last names, your email address, home and cell phone numbers, a current address and a description of the problem.
When filling out the description, you need to be as thorough as possible. You don’t have to share every detail about your legal matter, but you should provide enough information to help SLS determine if it is the type of case that they can handle or if you will need a referral. Moreover, SLS may want to provide the attorney best experienced in handling your matter.
What if you are not sure that your problem merits legal consideration? The only way to know for sure is to ask. Some students may encounter a situation that is unique, such as an immigration status problem that SLS does not handle. You’ll still get a referral, so speak up.
SLS can handle a variety of matters that don’t require legal intervention yet, what can help thwart problems later on. If you have a roommate, your SLS can provide a sample roommate agreement. You can also receive advice on what you need to know before signing a lease, how to move out and get back your deposit, and whether small claims court is the best course of action for you.
So, if your education institution offers SLS and you are not paying the fee, you might want to reconsider. Few students can afford legal assistance on their own and your parents will probably be glad to avoid footing legal bills that can cost them thousands of dollars.
Charles Harper is a professional blogger that provides information on the latest construction law advancement. He writes for Cobb Law Group, a top construction law firm in Georgia.